Morecambe and Wise
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The greatest comedy double act of the television era, Morecambe and Wise – and particularly their Christmas show – became a national institution in the 1970s.
In the future critics may look on them less as comedians and more as actors, given that the personae they projected over the years changed according to the scriptwriters used, the finest of them Eddie Braben.
But their act also incorporated elements of the music hall that trained them, borrowings from Vaudeville like the skippy-dance-with-jazz-hands after Groucho Marx, and various dance routines. We know now how seriously Eric Morecambe took his art from recordings found after his untimely death, and from stories of the intensity of their work method (an intensity that made Braben for one ill): Eric was a great ad-libber, but also rehearsed his lines endlessly to get the timing perfect: watch him grasping Andre Previn’s lapels and say: “Listen son, I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order,” to study how comedy acting is done.
And they learned much from the radio shows they heard in their youth and appeared in early in their joint career, especially the power of catchphrases, of which they had legion: you can’t see the join; the play what I wrote; short fat hairy legs; and what do you think of it so far to name but four.
It was those Christmas shows that earned them a place in our national entertainment pantheon though, as part of that holiday as Turkey and the pudding in the days when there were still only three channels. The guest stars they attracted included Laurence Olivier , Michael Aspel , Elton John (Hilton Bogg) and Ian Carmichael among a host of others: best of all were Andre Previn (Mr Preview) who showed wonderful comic timing himself, and Glenda Jackson , until then known for serious acting but who was swiftly recruited to an Oscar-winning role in A Touch of Class after showing her skills with the duo.

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